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Japan marks 6 months since tsunami

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Japan marks 6 months since tsunami

Disaster remembered with moment of silence

  • Emergency personnel and disaster relief crews search for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Sukuiso, Japan, on March 17.
    U.S. Navy/FlickrEmergency personnel and disaster relief crews search for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Sukuiso, Japan, on March 17.

Six months after an earthquake and tsunami left 20,000 dead or missing and sparked a nuclear crisis in Japan, Japanese marked the tragedy with a minute of silence.

As the United States mourned the thousands killed in Sept. 11, 2001 in attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, Japanese remembered the devastation wrought by a 9.0-magnitude quake and giant waves that swallowed entire communities along a 375-mile stretch of coast.

The AP describes the atmosphere in Japan:

Up and down the hard-hit northeast coast, families and communities came together to remember victims. Monks chanted. Survivors prayed. Mothers hung colorful paper cranes for their lost children.

At precisely 2:46 p.m., they stopped and observed a minute of silence. March 11 changed everything for them and their country.

The March 11 quake struck 80 miles off the country's northeast coast, crippling cooling systems and sparking meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, 138 miles northeast of Tokyo.

In Tokyo on Sunday, two anti-nuclear rallies were held, Channel News Asia reports. The Fukushima crisis is considered the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

According to CTV News:

The amount of cancer-causing cesium leaked from the destroyed Fukushima plant is equal to about 15,000 terabecquerels: an amount 168 times larger than the cesium released from the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima in 1945.

About 100,000 residents evacuated in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami still haven't returned to their homes, with officials saying it could be years before they can.

The March 11 commemoration came amid amid embarrassment for the country's eight-day-old government led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Trade minister Yoshio Hachiro resigned Saturday over remarks deemed insensitive to Fukushima evacuees.

According to MarketWatch, while visiting the region around the Fukushima plant, Hachiro "joked with reporters, saying that radiation on his protective suit might be contagious."

Hachiro was also reportedly accused of showing further insensitivity to evacuees by describing the area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility as an area of death. 

Noda has already apologized for Hachiro's remarks, saying, "I apologize deeply to the people of Fukushima, who have had their feelings badly hurt," the FT reports.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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